We have so much admiration for school teachers. They do amazing and important work for our children, day after day, year after year. But did you know there’s another great type of ‘teacher’ that has little to do with classrooms or school books?
Thriving life skills
We were quite captivated by a recent article from National Geographic, How gardening can teach kids life skills. In it, the author Kier Holmes explored the powerful educational benefits of teaching younger generations about plants and gardens, and helping them connect regularly with nature. “Whether your garden is on a city windowsill or in a big backyard,” Holmes writes, “getting kids involved in tending plants can be a powerful teaching tool for subjects like science, math, and reading. But the art of growing stuff can also promote important life skills in children.”
These ‘life skills’ aren’t merely things like how to dig a hole or use a watering can. They include critical qualities like patience, mindfulness, kindness, responsibility, commitment and self-esteem. (We may be a little biased, but the rich satisfaction of planting and nurturing another living thing, from seeds or seedlings right through to maturity, is surely one of life’s simplest pleasures?)
Ultimately, these are all important character-building skills that provide a foundation that will serve young Australians well – together with their families, friends, colleagues and communities – for the rest of their lives.
Academic and emotional growthAnother fascinating article, once again from National Geographic, delves into the ways relationships with nature help to build cognitive and emotional benefits in children, as well as foster stronger social connections with those around them.
“There’s enough evidence that shows a very causal link between outdoor learning and academic achievement,” Sarah Milligen-Toffler, Executive Director of the Children & Nature Network told National Geographic. “We know now there are very specific ways nature impacts our ability to learn and engage.”
Her advice? Simply that the more we encourage our kids to get outside, exploring and experiencing the natural world, the better!
Attention span and memory
Time spent outdoors is also positively linked to early brain development, helping everywhere from enhanced motor skills to stimulating brain-boosting chemicals that improve neuron-to-neuron communication. It’s even been shown to improve attention spans and memory – helping our kids concentrate, learn and thrive in the world around them.
What’s the best thing about all these benefits? They don’t even require trips to special places. In fact, National Geographic quotes a MRI brain scan study from Spain that found merely having access to street-level green space, or even just being able to see trees and sky from a window, was associated with increased brain development in children.